Here's the new collage journal I made a couple days ago. I covered the boards and cut the signatures on Friday, and Coptic bound it on Saturday. The boards were from a book I dismantled and I cut them down to fit 8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inch pages. There are 12 signatures of 12 pages each, 144 pages. Although I only plan to work on the front side of each page. I used 80 lb. drawing paper inside.
The photos I used to cover the journal are from another book I dismantled, this one featuring nearly all black and white photos of walls in Europe. I've recently used pieces of photos from this book in collages as well.
It's anybody's guess when I'll start working in this book ~ although that might be as soon as today. I've got another journal/sketchbook planned as well, with paper left over from cuts I made for this journal. Not sure yet how I'll cover the second one, maybe with fabric this time. And a different binding method.
Inside the front cover
Inside the back cover
Hope you're having a beautiful summer. I think ours is finally here for real on the North Coast. xo
These are two postcards I made recently. After yesterday's post, I started making a journal. The book boards have been covered nicely, I've got spine edgings ready to go, today I'll make signatures, and tomorrow I'll bind my new Coptic stitch journal/sketchbook.
I'm kind of hoping that by posting this last image from my recent Neutrals Journal, I'll get off my duff and do more. More anything. Actually I am moving in the direction of continuing with neutral collages, primarily. Just deciding whether I'll use a blank 8-1/2 x 11 sketchbook that I have or whether to make a hand bound journal. I have recycled book covers waiting, and everything else I need. I prefer the square format and if I make my own journal than I can make it square. So...
I've been watching Borgen, a 3-season Danish political drama, and really enjoying it. Those Danes make great movies and great television. Borgen is available via Netflix or here. Another excellent Danish TV mystery is Forbrydelsen, available here. Forbrydelsen is the original Danish version of The Killing, currently running somewhere on network TV in the States. The original is way better IMHO.
And speaking of TV, if you like political thriller-type shows and you haven't seen it yet, Netflix's House of Cards is a must-see. In this case the remake is a lot better than the original British mini-series of the same name, from 1990. They're both focused on the absurdities of politics in place and time. But whereas the original is more of a satire, the new House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, is much edgier, grittier, true to political life in the U.S. now.
When you've made a commitment (at long last, for me) to live within your means, that's when you really learn the value of money. Everything you now spend your money on has to fit into the context of your life, because this money is all you've got. So you become uber-discriminating, you question every purchase, you spend your few resources wisely. For me, I've made that into a game, a personal challenge on the order of "How little can I spend this week or this month?" "How much money can I have left over before my next social security deposit (so that I can buy something special, or even save it for later)?" Before the advent of credit cards, this kind of thinking was gospel.
Even though I've really never had any money, as mentioned in my last post, it wasn't until recently that I became truly frugal. It's impossible to see the connection between money and intrinsic value and life energy when you're spending all the time. Even if you have a lot of money. When you really think about how much value something is going to add to your life, or whether that item is just a throwaway or an unnecessary bit of entertainment that's gone as soon as it's spent...well, it makes you take a real critical look at what has meaning for you.
A couple months ago when I wrote about my lack of drive to make art, I mentioned feeling that I didn't have any desire. Desire is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. I still don't feel desirous of anything. I can say with complete honesty that there isn't anything that I really want that money could buy if I had it. And that's a good thing. Yet I don't feel like there's anything missing in my life. It makes life really simple.
In terms of stuff I need, and I'm really careful not to turn wants into needs, here are some things that I do ~
I buy a lot of stuff at the dollar store (actually Dollar Tree -- and incidentally, the one in Fortuna, one of four in Humboldt County, is expanding and will be the 2nd largest in the county come July) ~ household cleaning stuff, household plastics, kitchen tools, office supplies, some bath and beauty things, candles and other minor decor items. Some folks don't like to shop here because they think only down-and-outs shop here. Hello, I guess that's me. But there's a reason why Dollar Trees are expanding and proliferating everywhere -- and that's because most of the day-to-day items we need to live life are vastly overpriced in other stores, and fewer and fewer folks are able to afford to shop those other places. Most of the goods they sell at Dollar Tree are exactly the same as what they sell elsewhere, anyway.
I buy all my clothes at thrift shops (except underwear and shoes). Over the years, and going back 30 years, most of the clothes I've loved the best came from thrift shops or flea markets. Hardly used, cheap, and I wear them until they wear out. Sales in regular retail places are just come-ons as far as I'm concerned. When the retailer is marking clothes up 100% over what they paid for it and then give you a 10 or 20% discount, that's not a savings. You're still getting ripped off. As are all those poor third-world people who made those crappy clothes in the first place. So buying used clothes is a vote against supporting sweat shops as well as saving you a bundle.
I also wear men's clothing nearly exclusively (excepting jeans). They're far better made than women's clothing, come in better colors, last eons longer, and way more comfortable for me.
Even though we have Safeway and another chain grocery in Fortuna, it's cheaper for me to drive in to Eureka a couple times a month to do most of my food shopping at Winco. We're fortunate to have one in Humboldt County. Winco is worker owned and has cheaper prices, by far, than any other market. Often half the price of Safeway (which I occasionally go to as necessary between trips into Eureka). What I save on food costs driving in to Eureka more than covers my gas expense.
And when I'm in Eureka, I'll go to Costco for the very few things I need there. It still pays for me to be a member even though I only buy basics ~ a few food items but usually just vitamins, toilet paper, sponges, that kind of stuff mostly. I'm always the person in line with just one or two items, while everybody else has their cart chock full.
I shop Eureka Natural Foods for most organics, although Winco has a few organic items. I would prefer to be able to support the local farmers market but it's a money thing ~ our farmers markets are way more expensive than Eureka Natural Foods.
Most other things I need that are cheaper locally than buying online, I buy at K-Mart or Target. I always keep the receipt until I'm sure whatever it is works for me, fits, etc. and I'll return it if it doesn't work or I've changed my mind. I can't afford to be throwing away money on anything that doesn't work out.
I have to say, I probably know the least-expensive place to get anything here in Humboldt. I know where to go to buy each thing I need. I know that organic cane sugar is cheaper at Winco than it is at Eureka Natural Foods. I know that Miranda's Rescue in Fortuna has way lower prices on clothes than Tailwagger's Thrift Shop in Eureka, but that Tailwagger's is cheaper than American Cancer Discovery Shop, also that Tailwagger's has 50% off sales storewide every Tuesday and Thursday. I know that Tuesday is Senior Discount Day every place in Eureka where that's offered, so I go to town on Tuesdays almost always. I know that K-Mart has a better selection and way lower prices on small electric kitchen goods than Target. And on and on...
Another thing ~ I'll use something until I simply can't any longer, until it can't be repaired any more, until I absolutely have to replace it. I hate having to replace things, because they don't make 'em like they used to. "New and Improved" never is. It's never better and it's always more expensive. I've had a small table lamp for over 30 years that I've rewired numerous times; I still love the thing. I once gave away a perfectly good but old Hoover upright vac to a friend ~ long story ~ but eventually needed another vac so I bought a new Bissell, which turned out to be such a crock and such a hassle to use that I gave this new vac to said friend and got my old Hoover back. I've even mended polar fleece socks before having to replace them. I'll find a way to jury rig a fix to anything before having to buy a new one.
As far as treating myself goes, I actually do it often. I'm really easy to please. A frequent treat is a large decaf mocha from Jitter Bean, locally owned, way better and less expensive than Starbuck's. Once a month maybe, I'll have Mexican food with a friend or alone, either in Fortuna or Eureka. And I bake for myself at home, frequently. What else do I need?
I guess the point is, when you've ceased to pay attention to what's going on in the world, when you've become immune to virtually all of the information and communication that's floating around in the world, 99% of which is marketing and advertising, when you've become focused on learning who you really are underneath all the stuff you've been told about who you should be, life gets really simple. When you realize how little you really need to be happy, that's when I think your true life really begins. This is what's so for me, anyhow.
Situations vary. We've each got our own circumstances to deal with in life that will inevitably determine what we're able to do toward simplification.
I say this because I know my situation is different from anyone else's. Therefore, while what I've been able to let go of might seem radical in the context of your lives, it's worked for me, for who I am.
I am a single (solo, unattached), poor (financially only, certainly not in terms of spirit), senior woman. I never had kids. I have no family (of origin). I live on social security only and because all my work was in the usually-underpaid nonprofit sector, and because I had to take chunks of time off between jobs because my soul hated working and I needed to be creative for unpaid lengths of time, my monthly income is low enough that it just covers my rent and monthly expenses.
It's actually always been this way for me, but I resisted reality for all of my adult life and consequently got myself in a bit of debt trying to keep up with the world. Of course, that's all over now, the striving and the debt, and I'm a lot better off for it. I used to feel like a victim of circumstance ~ primarily the lack of money to do what everybody else seemed to be able to do ~ but from my current vantage point, the lack of financial resources has turned out to be a huge blessing.
We've all seen photos of people in "disadvantaged" countries all over the world who are happy with their lot. They have little (compared to folks in industrialized nations), yet their lives are intrinsically happy ones. They value life for what it is, not for it's comforts and conveniences and worldliness and having a lot of truly insignificant stuff. This is me, now.
It was relatively easy for me to offload 80 percent of my stuff because I didn't have any option other than to move to a way way smaller place. Necessity was the mother of big change for me. And not just in terms of downsizing stuff. I've seen myself grow inwardly and spiritually, watched my attitudes and values change.
From my personal experience I can say that modern life, they way the system wants us to live it, is nothing but entertainment and distraction...and then we die. Being the inveterate soul searcher that I am, that kind of life was never good enough for me, because it's a complete waste of a life on earth. When I look at my entire adult life in retrospect, where I am now is the perfect place for me to be given all the experiences I've had, all my esoteric leanings, all the places I've been and the things I've learned about myself. I seriously don't think it would have turned out this way had I had an easier time of it in life, financially.
And also ~ I am an introvert, a real introvert, the kind who regenerates her energy by being alone 95 percent of the time, the kind who prefers her own company to that of anybody else (except BeeGee). I'm a highly sensitive person, which means I feel things more deeply than a lot of folks in the world and that too many possibilities, too many choices or options for anything can be completely overwhelming and enervating. So letting go of a lot of things ~ possessions, the "need" to travel, massive modern conveniences, knowing what's going on everywhere in the world, filling myself up with useless entertainments and distractions ~ was absolutely no problem for me.
So there you have the context for me simplifying my life. I'll spell out a few more specifics next time.
I pulled this image off Facebook yesterday, and it is totally apropos of today's train of thought.
Several of you commented recently about wanting to hear more about how I simplified my life. So that's where I'm going in this post, with additional posts to follow in the coming weeks.
Interestingly, a couple years ago I thought about writing something -- a book, an essay -- called The Pauper's Guide to Living The Good Life. I never did that because I couldn't imagine dealing with any aspect of the publishing world, even self-publishing, which would entail marketing that I have absolutely no desire to have to do. All of that mumbo jumbo would go against the grain of my anarchic, seditious self.
And that's a good place to begin ~~ In order to simplify your life, you have to be up for rebelling against the system in any and every way possible, however you can make it work for you. Probably THE most subversive thing one can do these days is to get out of debt completely. Don't owe anybody anything (beyond your normal monthly living costs).
Granted, this is easy for me to say, because I never owned property (not since the early 1970s anyway, and that's so long ago it doesn't count) so I never had a mortgage/lending institution to deal with. When I radically downsized several years ago, moving from a 1700 square foot house in Eureka to my 294 square foot cottage in Fortuna, I sold or gave away almost everything. I used that money to pay off all my credit card debt and my car loan. I don't even have a credit card anymore and haven't for four years. I use cash or my debit card for everything now. If I don't have the money for something, I won't buy it until I do. And I've honestly never been happier.
That delayed gratification thing, which has never been a problem for me, has a huge benefit,because wants pass. If you can't buy it now, if you have to wait for it, you'll very likely find that you don't actually want it anyway once you really think about it. Buying a lot of stuff is a major addiction. And the best way to break that addiction is to not spend money you don't have on stuff you don't need.
The best way to not want stuff is to severely limit your exposure to mass media. Kill your TV, don't read any newspapers, don't read mass media magazines (and that's 95% of what's on the newsstand especially at supermarkets), get yourself off catalog mailing lists. The entire consumer system is designed to make you want stuff you don't need. It's designed to get you hooked and it doesn't want to let you go. The only way to fight the system is to refuse to play in the first place. And this goes for consumer electronics as well. Some of you may rail against this, but get rid of your smartphones. The only people truly benefiting from the entire genre of i-Everything are the corporations who are raping the earth for the resources to make that stuff while impoverishing most of the rest of the world's population and keeping us in slavery ("I owe, I owe, so off to work I go").
Personally, I don't have a cellphone -- I have a landline and DSL. I have a laptop. I don't have a TV, I don't listen to radio, I don't go to the movies, I don't subscribe to magazines (except Tricycle, a Buddhist quarterly). I watch the few TV programs I like online, without ads, and for free, I might add. I only just added Netflix, at $8 per month, so I can see foreign films unavailable at the library or the local video shop, and Netflix is far less expensive anyway than renting locally. I don't buy books (except art books), I borrow from the library.
You might think I'm isolated or out of the loop. It's simply not true. I judiciously pick and choose what I'll let into my life. If you want to simplify your life, you've got to do this. You've got to make conscious choices about how you want your life to be. Which means creating a life that reflects your true values. What is it that you value, really? Is it being "up-to-the-minute" with new technology and more stuff and more information available all the time than one human can possibly process in a lifetime? Or is it privacy, silence, thoughtfulness, mindfulness, peace of mind? It's your choice.
This is the last of May's 5 x 5 inch paintings on panel that I have to show. Who knows what and when my next paintings will come forth...and who cares, right?
I made my semi-monthly trek into Eureka yesterday. The highlight of the trip was having coffee with my friend Ellen, bookmaker extraordinaire, who also liberally and frequently enables my postage stamp addiction ~ with stamp heads especially.
It's getting ever more difficult for me to shop for the things I do need (and that's food, mainly) after I spend so much time normally dissociated from the consumer-driven culture. Everywhere I look, pretty much all around me, I see little else besides poison (toxic "food"), schlocky junk, or totally unnecessary things that people have been conned into believing they need in order to have fulfilling lives. I used to be one of those people, eons ago, until I realized I'd never, ever keep up, and then stopped trying, completely. Then I sold or otherwise removed from my life everything that was superfluous. In this striped down version of a 21st century person I found my true inner wealth and happiness.
Anyhow, I think I'm going to try only going into Eureka once a month, if I can do it. Most of everything else I buy besides food I already buy online (and much of that at Amazon). So I think I can manage this without much difficulty.
Life is going on around me, or perhaps I should say whizzing past me ~ and I don't even care.
On Saturday I made 15 or 16 stamphead postcards. These all are some of the best. They vary in size slightly. As with the ATCs made recently, these were a lot of fun.
When I make these things, I always have the photo or ad, the stamps, and usually the foundation paper selected beforehand. And sometimes also the words. Then I can easily assemble a bunch at once.
The old gal in the photo just above is Ma Barker, a contemporary of Bonnie & Clyde, although she was old enough to have been their mother.
My reading has slowed a bit for the moment, although I've got a stack of books out from the library. I recently joined Netflix (I know, finally got with the program) essentially to watch foreign films...beginning with all the films starring Mads Mikkelsen, my new fave actor. Mads is Danish, and although he's been in several American or British-made films recently, as well as American television, most of his movies are in Danish. So I've been having myself a Mads Mikkelsen Film Festival right here at home. If you're not sure who he is but you saw Casino Royale, Mads played Le Chiffre. And he's currently starring in NBC's Hannibal (which I tried to watch but is way too gruesome for my taste...and to think they put this stuff on network TV these days.)
Five more days 'til the summer solstice ~ which for me means, five more days until the days start getting shorter again! Autumn lover that I am. xo
I sent this postcard to my swap buddy, Leslie, this week. Our theme this time is found poetry, and I also used this opportunity to create my first stamphead postcard.
I did the two postcards below early in the week, as well. Now I'm working on a couple series. One features old black and white photos from one or two of those Time Magazine produced volumes on the decades of the 20th century. Another features illustrations from a 1960 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook. I also have a Girl Scout Handbook from the same year. There are some noticeable differences between the two scout manuals.
The boy's book features a painting by Norman Rockwell on the cover; the girl's book sports a drawn insignia.
The paper is higher quality in the boy's.
The boy's book features color illustrations and drawings; the girl's has primitive line drawings.
The boy's features a lot of cool old ads in the back, albeit many are for guns (what else?); whereas the girl's has no ads. Guess they didn't feel right putting in ads for things like washing machines and kitchen appliances.
The boy's handbook, of course, is loaded with practical information about living in the world, being a good citizen, how to survive in the wild, orienteering, first aid, etc. (along with a bent toward godliness); whereas the girl's book focuses on home and hearth, including such basics as how to wash dishes properly, how to be a good conversationalist, how to sew, how to dance, and how to do arts and crafts.
In other words, sexist tomes of their day.
And this is why some women like me, who were Brownies or Girl Scouts in 1960, have had a hard time figuring out what they wanted to be when they grew up.
I finished off these stampheads on Saturday. These should hold me for a while.
Giveaway Alert: I'll send the one in the top left position in the image above (the person playing the accordion) to the first one of you who can identify that person under the stamp. So put on your thinking caps!
My pal Ilene came over yesterday and we made stamphead ATCs. We had a blast. I did all these yesterday, and I've got more in the works, also some stamphead postcards. These are so much fun. Click on the photos to make them bigger.
My days of making pronouncements about what I will/may/might/likely/possibly do or not do in the next day/week/month/near or distant future are over. What's certain is that I will do exactly whatever it is I do, whenever I do it. That is enough.
I woke myself up out of the strangest dream this morning. In present-tense dream lingo, I'm having an unannounced visit from a group of people from a social service agency that's been providing me benefits of some sort. They're very nice people, friendly, helpful, etc. However by the time they leave, everything in my life has been wired, i.e. bugged. They're trying to get into my head as well but I'm resisting with all my might. Finally, my dream self realizes this has to be a dream and I wake myself up to make sure.
So I'm especially grateful to be here with you in my real life this morning. Have a wonderful weekend! xo
Today's post title references the age-old dichotomy between being and doing. At this point I'd rather be than do. Being is inherent; doing is extrinsic, from the outside.
I haven't gotten too far in Eric Maisel's Fearless Creating because there's so much "do" involved. I'm not into copious list making these days, pushing through barriers, keeping myself on track, nose to the grindstone. There are other creativity books that haven't worked for me either, Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit for one. Perhaps these prescriptive tracts are what separate the Big A Artists from the garden variety people living creative lives, folks like me. I just can't get it up these days.
Julia Cameron's The Sound of Paper has suggested tasks with each essay, but I'm not compelled to do them for the most part. Lists, again. Stuff I already did eons ago, at the other end of my adult life. Overall, though, this book takes a much more gentle approach to coddling one's creative soul. And I'm looking a lot more closely at the gestalt of my life as a creative (ad)venture rather than merely focusing on my output of stuff made.
I think I have a more creative mind than I've allowed myself to believe in the past. Call it imagination, I guess. If I can imagine myself doing things, painting for instance, is it really necessary to actually do them?? I don't know.
Anyway, I appreciated your comments on Monday's post about being lazy. Lazy is a judgment, and I'm letting it go. I'm exactly where I am these days, which is exactly where I should be. Whatever happens, happens. All that exists is the life I'm living right now. No complaints.
It's Junuary here on the North Coast. That's what we call it when it's cold and overcast for much of the day, but in June instead of January. Happens every year.
Reading continues apace. Since I last wrote, I've read a book I enjoyed a lot called The Collective by Don Lee. It's about a trio of Asian American art students in college and beyond. I hope to read Lee's other two novels soon. I'm nearly finished with Laurie King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice, also very enjoyable.Next I'll read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma.
Still no thunderbolts of inspiration on the artmaking front. At some point I'll probably have to just lay out some creative plans for myself and follow them. Do the work, in other words...put in the time. That is, if I want to. And right now I don't. When that niggling sense of partial boredom gets stronger, perhaps then.